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A Shifting Republican Party Makes Mischief for Obama on Libya

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The politics of war are endlessly fascinating. Especially as they concern the party which set itself up as the party of "Long War" after 9/11.

Republican politicians are beginning to follow their voters as their voters shift away in recent months from their staunch backing for the war in Afghanistan, as I discussed last month on the Huffington Post. But Republican pols are driving their voters against the Libyan War, even though the cost and exposure are minuscule in comparison.

The net effect for Barack Obama is real trouble, as he finds popular support for both the Afghan War and the Libyan War has plummeted. Even though most Democratic voters still support his far more limited mission working with European and Arab allies in Libya, it's the newfound opposition from Republicans that accounts for his Libya operation now being opposed by a national plurality.


Republican members of Congress, joining with some left-liberals, are making trouble for President Barack Obama on Libya.

Now new Republican Senator Ron Johnson is stalling a Senate vote next week in favor of authorizing Obama's Libyan mission.

It's just the latest example of how Republican politicians, especially in the House, have joined much of the Democratic left in attacking Obama on Libya.

Some three months after the United Nations sanctioned the Libyan War to protect civilians and rebels and push back against longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi, support for the effort in the US has moved from positive to negative.

A Gallup Poll last week shows that a 47-37 edge in favor in March has shifted to 39-46 opposed in June.

The good news for the Obama Administration is that this is a low-intensity conflict from an American standpoint, with the US having shifted to a backseat role after the first week-and-a-half of hostilities.

Which is, paradoxically, one of the reasons why the war is now unpopular. Without the oomph of what The Economist calls "the U.S. cavalry," the Europeans who wanted the war are struggling to mount an effective effort.

But the UN aims have been achieved, despite the big picture impasse. Which is nonetheless slowly turning against Gaddafi.

Ironically, it may be sheer partisan politics that drives this polling result.

Most Democratic voters favor the Libyan War, though many activists and politicians are vehemently opposed. Independents have moved somewhat against, due to the fact that Gaddafi is still around and it's still going on.

Democrats favored Obama's move on Libya, 51-34 in March, and 54-35 in late June.

It's the big Republican shift against the Libyan War, driven by Republican politicians using it to attack Obama -- frequently criticizing him for not doing more as well as for doing too much -- that accounts for the turnaround in national opinion.


The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi and two of his closest associates for crimes against humanity.

Americans are more likely to say they disapprove than approve of the U.S. military action in Libya. That represents a shift from three months ago, just after the mission began, when approval exceeded disapproval. ...

Democrats are the only political group to show more support for than opposition to the U.S. involvement. Independents are the most likely to show opposition, with a majority disapproving.

Republicans' opinions have changed the most since March, moving to 39% approval from 57%. This likely reflects increased criticism of the mission's legality and cost from some Republican congressional leaders and presidential candidates. Independents' views have become slightly more negative over the last three months, while Democrats' opinions have been largely stable. ...

Last week's highly political moves against Obama in the House on Libya resulted in a wash. The House did not provide its imprimatur for the US mission in Libya. With left-liberal Democrats upset and right-wing Republicans looking for a way to slap the president, legislation to authorize the mission for the next year was overwhelmingly defeated.

But anti-war forces failed to pass a bill to cut funding for the Libyan mission. That's the real question. Of course, even if they had, they would have to get the Senate to go along with them, and that would not happen.

This week the Senate took up Libya in hearings. 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain moved legislation supporting the intervention, which cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 14 to 5 vote.


Not surprisingly, the Libyan government has rejected arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court for Gaddafi, his son, and his intelligence chief on charges of crimes against humanity.

That's the bill the Wisconsin Republican Senator Johnson is stalling, using Senate procedure. Which means that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will have to hold a procedural vote first to the clear the way for the vote on the authorization.

Meanwhile, in Libya itself, the regime has rejected arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court for longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi, his son and protege Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, and the regime's intelligence chief. They are charged with multiple crimes against humanity for their attacks on peaceful protesters during the early days of pro-democracy demonstrations in Libya, and for their attacks on civilians later during the uprising.

The ICC is using these arrest warrants as examples of what can happen to more Gaddafi associates if they don't help hasten the Brother Leader from power.

While Republican voters have dramatically shifted against Obama's Libyan operation, and are shifting away from support for the Afghan War, what they've shifted to so far is a state of confusion. Which accounts for the contradictory things Republican presidential candidates have been saying.

A new Gallup Poll finds widespread support for Obama's plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

But only a 43% plurality backs his specific near-term plan of withdrawing 10,000 by the end of this year, and another 23,000 by the end of summer 2012.

That's because 29% want him to withdraw more troops in the near term. And 19% want him to withdraw fewer.

The fact that only a fifth of the country thinks that Obama is being too aggressive in his withdrawal plans accounts for the movement among Republican presidential candidates, who are sounding much more dovish than they did a year ago.

The slight majority of Democrats, 57%, say the 30,000 figure is about right; however -- in line with vocal criticism of the plan from Rep. Nancy Pelosi and other congressional Democrats who want a more aggressive drawdown -- 30% call it too low.

Independents' reactions are more closely divided: 40% call it about right, 33% too low, and 18% too high. Republicans are the most fractured of all, with about a third saying the withdrawal figure is about right, a third calling it too high, and 20% too low. ...

All these things seemed so much simpler for Republicans during the first Bush/Cheney term. The USA would roll in, kick ass, and move on to the next objective.

But the world is far more complicated than that.

You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.

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